Note: In exchange for a comped meal at The Federal Bar, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC, I am writing this review.
Williamsburg’s The Federal Bar is just about one month old, and judging by my entirely unscientific conjecture – and by the opinions of a couple of waiters – locals and visitors are still learning about it. However, it may help that they are affiliated with LA-based Knitting Factory Entertainment, named for The Knitting Factory music venue originally in Manhattan but now, among other places in the US, right next door.
When I walked in, there were no hosts, so I made my way to the bar in the back, where I asked a couple of helpful but confused servers about where to sit.
The Federal Bar was most recently a Japanese place, and initially a carriage house. The lighting was low, right above the bar was a globe dangling from the ceiling, and the wallpaper showed various sewing and knitting terms and pictures of vests.
Little did I know that four other bloggers would be joining, but I’ll touch upon that point in a bit.
Both the food and cocktail menus were all over the place.
Generally, when I walk by a restaurant that proudly advertises a mix of “American, Spanish, Chinese, and Italian” cuisines, I take a picture of the sign, send it to friends who would get a kick out of the not-uncommon-enough idea, and then head for the hills.
Then again, I was hungry, I was there to eat, and I’m quite open to trying nearly anything once.
For a drink, I admittedly don’t know my way too well around a liquor menu. So, I went with the most farfetched choice, The Infidelity, which contained both egg and smoke. To which part of the much maligned food pyramid does smoke belong? It may not have been the the best choice, but certainly tasted each of the five ingredients (…which again may be why it wasn’t the best choice).
Later on in the meal, I ordered a Pinot Noir, but it tasted warm and diluted. With that said, I appreciate that our waitress placed carafes of water on the table.
Above, I tried the collard green salad with watermelon, farro, fennel, and ricotta salata. It was refreshing and characteristically bitter, owing to the collard greens. And in case you licorice-shy readers were worried (I’m one of them), this isn’t your uncooked after-dinner Indian restaurant fennel seed.
Though, ordering food is where things got a bit tricky. Originally, it was just a party of three, and our waitress took our individual orders. Soon after, the other two people sat down, then our appetizers were served, and then the head chef came by to chat. He thought that we were ordering meals as a table; when two people asked for the same dish, only one was prepared because he thought it was ridiculous that a menu tasting would work thus.
Fortunately though, my dishes remained unfazed.
For my main, I had the Everything Bagel Burger with dill cream cheese and salmon bacon (in case anyone at The Federal Bar is reading this, your website says “salmon burger” as one of the toppings). According to the head chef, many items on the menu were either made in-house or sourced locally; sure enough, the ketchup hinted more at a thicker marinara sauce than even being faintly sweet, and I really hope that the bagels could claim NY as their birthplace. Indeed, I didn’t get the feeling that quality was put on the backburner.
In spite of the pickle not being sour, overall the burger and fries were a decent choice. To give The Federal Bar some credit, fries come with their burgers as a rule.
What’s that? That’s what we call an after-thought.
The table was still nearly full of plates, but the chef mentioned that they had one dessert at the time – an unpside-down pineapple donut bread pudding – and that it wasn’t on the menu. My four fellow diners all looked quite satisfied before the dessert came, so my usual unofficial role as food compactor came to shine once again. Pineapple was the dominant flavor, but where was the donut?
Though the presentation didn’t make the bread pudding too inviting, something loaded with sugar was a welcome change.
Fortunately, the caramelized, lemon zest pecans left over from another diner’s salad successfully assumed that role:
Yes, I was able to get a take-out portion of these pecans, which I liberally dropped on my bran cereal for subsequent breakfasts.
All in all, I think if I had dined alone the meal would have had more kinks worked out. Still, The Federal Bar is a relatively new restaurant, and I’d say they’re in pretty good shape considering their infancy. Prices reflect Williamsburg’s desire to compete with much of Manhattan, though portions evoke more Texas than Tribeca.
I’d go back, possibly to see what they’ve got going on for brunch.